Monday, 21 May 2012

Rabbiting on

As a fully paid-up member of the ‘do as I say and not as I do’ brigade*, heeding my own advice is about as natural as the sweet heady scent of freshly mown astro turf. However, miracles can happen - even in twenty-first century Norfolk.

In all honesty, I would rather spend my garden budget on something exquisite which pleases as many of my senses as is physically possible, so anything humdrum and sensible, like rabbit fencing, is way down my list of desirable purchases. Or it was. I have been preaching to clients about correctly installed rabbit protection for years and I have finally heard my own message.

Of course, lists of rabbit-resistant plants are readily available, but Br'er, Peter, Roger and Buggs haven’t read any of them and will invariably munch their way through specimens which are, according to the experts, off the menu.

I love to grow my own food and if I eat the food, the chances are that the rabbits will too and I know who is more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning and will get to the crops first. So a considerable proportion of my garden budget will be blown on rabbit fencing which will, hopefully, keep the bunnies out. I like to think it will be a fine long-term investment for my plants and my sanity. After all, little is more disheartening than discovering that your garden is now the eatery of choice for the entire cast of Watership Down.

The photos above are of my auntie's travelling Geum. I took some from her Cambridgeshire garden, planted it in Essex, then moved a little of it with me to Norfolk. It's a spreader, so it travels within the garden too, although not in a pesky way - just enough to enable us to share it with others. It is Geum rivale. I think it is beautiful and even better, bees love it.

Our barn conversion continues apace. Tonnes of soil have been removed and the barn is still standing despite howling gales and hailstorms.

We have had many heaps of soil bigger than the one below (although this one is unusual in that it is basking in the sunlight). We have managed to reuse them all, so nothing has been disposed of off-site.

The dog enjoying his morning constitutional is Sprout. I can't believe how clean he looks in that photo!

This week it is Chelsea Flower Show, so my camera battery is recharging and I am getting all excited about catching up with old friends and meeting new plants. I can't wait!

* Please see the 'Chocolate and Cherries' post March 2012

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Silver Linings

I love the British weather. It is so capricious. It lures us into over-dressing or even, perish the thought, under-dressing - and challenges and exasperates us, but at least it has the decency to do so in a loveable rogue kind of way.

Raindrops on Geranium Rozanne = 'Gerwat'

Recently though, it has taken on a new predictable persona and all this rain, while great for water reserves, is just plain frustrating and if it doesn’t ease up soon, I fear the hens will develop webbed feet and our veggie patch will produce a bumper crop of dandelions and little else.

In an acute attack of optimism, I have been scouting for silver linings to all these rain clouds and of course, the plants have come up trumps. Who could ever tire of looking at raindrops collecting on the leaves of Alchemilla mollis?

Even drought tolerant plants such as those found in the gravel garden at The Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex, seem to be enjoying the rain and are putting on lush growth. Unfurling leaves are vibrant and fresh - here is a bluebell wood I spotted on my travels last weekend.

In my own garden, recently planted hedges are flourishing. Were it not for the rain, it could have been a very different story. After all, bare-root hedging and hosepipe bans are seldom happy bedfellows.

I must confess that I rarely enjoy mowing lawns, so the rain is a blessing as it would be foolhardy to mow wet grass. Had I been able and willing to mow, I might have missed out on these cowslips which have made themselves at home in the lawn. 

Like many people accustomed to the physical exertions of gardening, inactivity is taking its toll and my clothes are tightening by the day, so I am grateful to be involved in some small way with the forthcoming Olympics. I am no highly-tuned sportsperson so I am not a contender- unless competitive chocolate consumption is an Olympic event these days - in which case, sign me up.

Like many of the Olympic volunteers, I feel privileged to be part of an exciting occasion which gives me the opportunity to meet diverse, enthusiastic and supportive people. I feel the same about the blogosphere. I haven’t been here long, but I am having a wonderful time in this community of diverse, enthusiastic and supportive people. So despite the rain, I am happy!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Golden Marjoram, Silver Thyme and a Buff Sussex

Introducing the girls.... 

Hippy Chick (the Light Sussex) and Herby Chicken (the Buff Sussex)

Like a lovesick teenager checking an inbox for messages, I have been obsessively checking the nest box for eggs and I am hugely relieved to announce that the seemingly interminable wait (all one day of it) is over as far as Hippy is concerned - we are looking forward to some egg-laying action from Herby in the very near future.

There are only two girls because everything I have ever read on the subject suggests that chicken-keeping is highly addictive. So by starting small, I have a way to go before things get out of hand. They have certainly provided a welcome diversion in all this bad weather as have these beauties.

One of the great things about this miserable weather is that our tulips have flowered for longer than usual. I didn't think they would perform so well in all the wind and rain, but they have done us proud. These ones are 'Jimmy', 
'Sjakamaro' and 'Ronaldo'.

Another silver lining to all these storm clouds is that anything recently planted appears to be establishing with a minimum amount of effort from me. The culinary herb border which went in last week is already showing signs of growth. I chose the driest, sunniest part of the garden which, as luck would have it, is close to the kitchen door. I added grit when planting to help with drainage and it seems to be doing the trick. 

Golden Marjoram 

Pink-purple stems of Silver Thyme

I love planting culinary herbs. Their different forms, colours, leaves and flowers offer so many creative opportunities. They are not just inspiring to design with, they can attract beneficial insects; provide fabulous flavours which help to mask my culinary inadequacies; and just crushing those leaves releases the scent of summer.... even on a rainy day in May.  

Dill in the rain

Despite the appalling weather, our indomitable builders have continued in their quest to turn a 17th century threshing barn into our new home. Beams are documented and preserved wherever possible and we continue to see a steady stream of visitors who won't let the rain dampen their ardour for historical buildings.

We appear to have rills where there should be walls, which is an interesting interior design feature.

The next photo shows where we plan to sit and watch the sun setting, although we fervently hope we will not be viewing it across a muddy puddle.

The good news is that no television presenters have been spotted sloshing around in the mud, doing sympathetic shots to camera about our conversion being over-time and over-budget, so we’re bound to be in by Christmas... ahem.